I don’t know about you, but it still feels weird to say that it’s 2017. Maybe a few more weeks and it will feel normal?
After my little unplanned hiatus over the last few weeks (sorry – I was enjoying time with my family and then got sick as soon as I got back to DC), I wanted to jump straight back in to one of the things I love best: talking about books.
Specifically, talking about books that I love,
Specifically, in this case, talking about a book I fell utterly in love with that I finished reading just before the end of the year: Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman.
Lionheart is, as you may guess, a historical novel about Richard the Lionheart, the Crusader King, and I absolutely adored it.
Historical fiction has always been very close to my heart, but I have often struggled to find books in this genre that were well done. So many relied on stereotypical characters or extremely stilted dialogue and any number of other problems. (At least this is the case with books set in the historical periods I am most interested in.) But I was in love with Lionheart from page one.
Disclaimer: Although I am going to rave about this book here, it is not one that I would necessarily recommend for most people. I think I would mostly only recommend it for really hard core historical fiction fans. You have been warned.
I can’t entirely articulate why I loved this book, as it certainly had its weaknesses and problems, but there was just something about it that simply tickled me to my core. Every time I would pick it up, I felt giddy and would start grinning and would remain grinning pretty much until I set it down again. I can maintain a relatively tranquil and passive appearance while reading most books. Not so with this one. I would snort, laugh, or scowl as the situation demanded. I don’t entirely remember but I think I actually squealed in delight while I was reading it on the plane. (So yeah…sorry not sorry?)
Let’s talk about characters. Richard was great and everything, but I really loved the women in the story. That was one of the things I loved the very most about this book: the women in Richard’s life were really given a starring role (and in a very satisfactory way). First there was his mother (the Eleanor of Aquitaine). She’s not around for much of the book, but we get to see her in the first little bit, and she is a total powerhouse. I understand that she plays a very significant role in the companion novel, A King’s Ransom, which I will be beginning shortly, so I’m super excited about that. (I checked it out from the library just the other day.) We also spend a lot of time with Richard’s wife, Berengaria/Berenguela who is sweet, loyal, brave, and smart. It’s really fun to watch her grow throughout the novel. And even though she is someone who would normally be a fairly passive character in the way most people would tell the story, Sharon Kay Penman really creates a character you can respect and someone who you know has enormous potential. I expect to see great things from her in A King’s Ransom.
And then there is Richard’s sister, Joanne, who is incredible. She is ridiculously intelligent, sharp, beautiful, practical. She has nerves of steel and she’s incredibly human. That’s what gets me about all these characters. They do not rely on stereotypes. They all have complexities that make them come to life, and each pulls the reader in expertly until you suddenly realize you care a great deal about them. With all three of these women, I kind of felt like saying, “Can I grow up to be you, please? Maybe just a little bit?”
Just writing about all of this puts a smile on my face and I am itching to pick up A King’s Ransom.
I am glad that I was able to finish my year with such a wonderful book. I had a really sub-par reading year with a number of disappointments and “meh”s, but Lionheart reminded me what it is like to discover a book you adore.
Did you discover a book you adore in 2016? Let me know your favorite read of last year.
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